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rather unexpectedly, this rocks - 70%

Abominatrix, March 19th, 2004

I'm certainly not a very big fan of this band. Though their "Gothic" album is undeniably a very creative and masterful piece of work for its time, and the lead guitar is some of the best I've ever heard and perfect for doom (more doom bands need to have aching, sorrowful leads), nothing else Paradise Lost has ever done really moves me that much. "Shades of God" was the first album I obtained from the band, and indeed, was one of the first slightly underground metal albums I ever bought. I remember the day this came in (I had to order it) I was completely ill and alternately lying in bed and puking my guts out. I'd read plenty of reviews on the Internet, which wasn't exactly as over-abundant with information regarding metal bands as it is today (this was in 1996), that suggested that this record was full of sorrow, beautiful melody and passion. I'd heard My Dying Bride by then and I sort of imagined this would be something similar. Well, at the time I was extremely disappointed, and this only added to my miserable day. Because, you see, this is somewhat of an odd item in PL's mostly rather dubious catalogue.

This is honestly very close to traditional doom, and not remotely linked to death metal, with barely the slightest hint of gothic elements to be found. Gregor Macintosh's sublime, melancholic lead guitar that would be such a groundwork for bands like Katatonia to follow has, at this point, been replaced by bluesy, wah-wah soaked solos. There are loads of leads on this album, but they bare more resemblence to Black Sabbath or Trouble than anything else, and in 1996 I certainly wasn't ready for this. However, there is an abundance of great riffs to be found here, lots of nifty instrumental passages with a full-on sludgy groove, tempo changes and a pretty energetic feel. not all the songs here are plodding and slow, in fact, tracks like "Pity the Sadness" mostly just rock out, and the slower, more doomy numbers are usually tempered by faster breaks which one can definitely headbang to. Vocals are sort of nondescript..kind of a heavily reverbed shout that occasionally veers into both melodic and slightly growled territory, but they're nothing like the vocals on "Gothic" and more akin to the James Hetfield with constipation stuff on "Icon".

So why doesn't this album get a higher rating? Well, somehow Paradise Lost never really made their ways into the annals of trad doom, and the reason for this is that something just doesn't seem right or convincing about this. The riffs are there, the leads are there, the groove is there...yet some feeling is missing, and the album ends up dragging a bit toward the end. Finally there's the total weak point, the absolutely overrated pisser of a song "as I Die", which sounds like it could have been on "Icon" only it's not even as good as most of the songs on that album. It's the only track which really brings to mind some of the band's embracing of more gothic stylings later on, and it sounds a bit like a failed experiment. Still, songs like "Daylight Torn" (probably my favourite), "Pity the Sadness" and "Mortals Watch the Day", along with most of the first 3/4 of the album, are really worth something if you appreciate the traditional doom bands. Fans of Cathedral should really check this out as there are definitely a lot of similarities to that other (and far superior) British band.